Hopkins: “I said I’m going to punish Calzaghe slowly”
By Eric Schmidt: The war of words continued today between light heavyweight Bernard Hopkins (48-4-1, 32 KOs) and undefeated WBA/WBC/WBO super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe (44-0, 32 KOs) in the first portion of their three city press tour to promote their April 19th bout at the Thomas & Mack Center, in Las Vegas, Nevada. As customary, it was the 43 year-old Hopkins who got in the better line when he said “I said I’m going to punish Calzaghe slowly, and I’ll repeat that today. I’ll ask that his father is merciful to him and pulls him out when he is getting hurt.”
Hopkins is clearly winning the war of words at this point, as he often does against his opponents that are generally not as skilled at sparring with him verbally. However, Hopkins may end up with pie in his face if he can’t match his action with his words, for this is going to the biggest challenge for him in over a decade, perhaps since his fight with Roy Jones Jr. in 1993. Hopkins ended up on the losing end of that fight, losing by a 12-round unanimous decision. He did fight competitively against Jones, but his lack of handspeed was the ultimate reason for his defeat to Jones.
He couldn’t match his speed in many of the exchanges and often found himself getting hit multiple times by Jones while only getting one shot of his own. In re-watching the fight, Hopkins seemed to be fighting in slow motion compared to the blinding speed of Jones, who was at his prime at that time of his career. Hopkins, while showing a fierce determination to stay in the fight, quickly fell behind and never caught up to Jones. As much as he tried to keep the fight at close quarters where he excels at infighting, Jones would have none of it, quickly moving to the outside where he would pot shot Hopkins at will.
Unfortunately, Calzaghe is like a clone of Jones, except that he tends to land many more punches than he did in his prime. His handspeed isn’t quite up to Jones’ level, but it’s close enough for it to be a substantial problem for the 43 year-old Hopkins to try and deal with. Hopkins is also slowed himself, and not at the level he was years ago, meaning that this type of fight is coming at the wrong time in his career. Like in his fight with Jones, Hopkins may be able to stay competitive for awhile, especially if he can slow the fight down by clinching excessively, but there’s no escaping the fact that Hopkins will be at a major disadvantage because of his lack of speed and advanced age.
As such, this fight may very well end up to be a one-sided affair with Calzaghe winning every round of the fight with ease. To avoid that from happening, Hopkins is going to need more than braggadocio to win the fight. He’s going to need some secret weapon, something that he hasn’t shown before in his career, for Calzaghe would seem to be the better fighter for every which style that Hopkins can present to him.
The clinching may slow the fight down, but it won’t keep Hopkins from taking several wicked shots while rushing in to grab Calzaghe. Depending on the referee, Hopkins may have a problem initiating multiple clinches without receiving warnings, and, perhaps being penalized for excessive holding. Many people are already saying that will be Hopkin’s strategy to try and win the fight, because he doesn’t have comparable offensive skills with which to match Calzaghe, and he would be foolish to try.
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